Flash comes to iDevice through Skyfire Web Browser

Nov 8, 2010
Tech

Skyfire Web Browser was officially released in the iTunes App Store last week, but was pulled five hours after its debut because it was “sold out.” No, an app can’t really sell out, but Skyfire developers said they simply didn’t have the resources to keep up with app demand (Skyfire became the top grossing app […]

Skyfire Web Browser was officially released in the iTunes App Store last week, but was pulled five hours after its debut because it was “sold out.” No, an app can’t really sell out, but Skyfire developers said they simply didn’t have the resources to keep up with app demand (Skyfire became the top grossing app during its launch), something I, as a potential user, appreciated them copping to. Skyfire reappeared for purchase late Friday night, but before you drop $3, I think it’s important you know what you’re buying.

Skyfire doesn’t hide what content it can and cannot support, but users still misunderstand Skyfire’s draw. Skyfire enables Flash-based video to play on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (unoptimized) by quickly encoding it to HTML5. It does not support Flash games or Flash sites. There are a few major sites that still use Flash video—desktop ESPN uses Flash; mobile ESPN uses HTML5—but the majority of sites that use Flash are Flash-based — and they still won’t play on your iDevice.

If you can find a site that uses Flash video (and not all are equally supported—Hulu is a no-go because of that site’s restrictions), the app will load a pop-up video screen that will link you to the Flash video content. Speeds are not fast here, but beggars can’t be choosers. You’ll have some video controls, such as pause and rewind, and you can display the clip in portrait or landscape mode.

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Although the Flash video support is the primary selling point to Skyfire, the app does have some other key features that make it useful for normal browsing. Along with a private browsing option, users will be able to toggle between desktop and mobile versions of sites, which are accessible via the settings gears. This can also enable you to find more Flash video to view. The two wavy lines on the lower toolbar comprise Skyfire’s “explore” function. When possible, the app will read the page you’re on and pull out key terms that you may want to get further information on. If nothing appears in the explore field, you can always enter in your own search. When using explore, Skyfire will comb the web and compile a list of video, trends, tweets and image results for your search query.

Skyfire gets high marks for its pure functionality, in that it does what it claims to adequately, but with the prevalence of HTML5 and site-specific apps, I have trouble thinking of a time when I’ll actually need to use the service.

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